TAMPA, Fla. | The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost three straight games and frustration is mounting.
One veteran complained about a lack of playing time in the wake of a last-minute loss to the Buffalo Bills, another key player echoed those sentiments on social media, and coach Dirk Koetter acknowledged cautioning the entire team against imploding after a 2-4 start.
“My take on it is when you lose games, you lose a game you probably should have won, everybody’s frustrated. That’s just human nature,” Koetter said, responding to safety T. J. Ward’s assertion that he’s “at my wit’s end” being a part-time player.
“I didn’t hear him. So all this is secondhand to me,” Koetter added. “But everyone’s frustrated. I talked to the team about how most of our issues are self-inflicted right now … and we’re the only ones who can fix them.”
Ward spoke out Sunday after the Bucs rallied from an 11-point deficit to take a 27-20 lead, then collapsed defensively down the stretch.
Buffalo drove 75 yards in three plays to tie the score, then forced a fumble to set up a last-minute fumble for a 30-27 victory.
Tampa Bay allowed 434 yards, with nearly half the Bills’ production coming on eight plays. The Bucs allowed the NFL’s 31st-ranked offense to convert 10 of 16 third downs.
Ward, a three-time Pro Bowl selection who helped Denver win the Super Bowl two years ago, signed a one-year, $4 million contract with Tampa Bay after being released by the Broncos at the end of the preseason.
The eighth-year pro said he didn’t sign with the Bucs to share playing time.
“I did not come here to rotate,” Ward said after the game. “I did not come here to be a part-time player. I came here to make this defense better. Be on the field 100 percent of the time. I destruct offenses. That’s what I do. I need to be out there.”
Defensive tackle Chris Baker, signed in free agency after spending the past five seasons with the Washington Redskins, chimed in on Twitter: “FACTS I feel the same way Bro.”
Koetter noted that Ward not only was not in training camp with the Bucs, but also missed much of it in Denver because of injury.
“Then, he’s been hurt a majority of the time since he’s been here,” the coach said of Ward, who’s missed two games since joining the team.
“I’m sure he’s frustrated,” Koetter said. “Every player wants to be out there the whole time. That’s just part of the game.”
The coach said he sat down with Ward in his office last Thursday and “laid out exactly what he needed to do better.”
He also spoke to the entire team on Monday.
“I talked to the players today about anybody’s that’s frustrated and has an issue, the best way to take care of an issue on a team is to go to somebody who can do something about it,” Koetter said. “Then I outlined who those people were.”
Cornerback Brent Grimes said in moments like these, it’s important to for a team to not lose its perspective.
“There’s going to be ups and downs,” Grimes said. “Obviously we’re in a losing streak and you never want it to go that way. But you’ve got to look past it. You’ve got to learn from it, learn from these games and figure out what we’re doing wrong and improve.
“It’s nothing overcomplicated. We’ve just got to play better.”